Indie

Secrets of Raetikon Preview – Free as a Bird

Secrets of Raetikon is an indie outing by Broken Rules Interactive that puts you in control of an ancient bird-tribe member, freely roaming around and exploring a nicely open world to explore and discover the secrets of a forgotten culture.

The first thing you’re presented with upon firing up this charming adventure is a screen recommending gamepad use, which I strongly agree with after initially ignoring it and playing with the keyboard to little success. After that, you’re thrown relatively haphazardly into a small, safe tutorial area that teaches the basic functions of gameplay; grabbing objects, collecting items, and using the energy you’ve gathered to activate machinery that serves various purposes throughout.


The most striking thing about Secrets of Raetikon is the unique and beautiful visual style. This remains consistent throughout, and while the geometric design makes some things difficult to identify, it adds more to the experience than it subtracts; while I couldn’t tell what some things were, it was easy to pick out static objects from enemies or friendly creatures. The core of your mission is the collection of seven sigils used to open solid doors closing off cages full of animals in a chamber just beyond the opening tutorial’s cave; the first of these is awarded for completing the tutorial, so the objective is clearly given – with some help text to push you in the right direction, to boot. The land is rife with dangerous animals, lethal hazards, and puzzles that bar your progress.

What I dubbed 'the death tunnel', this oft-traversed path winds between harmful thorny bushes. I was reminded of the dreaded underwater level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES.

What I dubbed ‘the death tunnel’, this oft-traversed path winds between harmful thorny bushes. I was reminded of the dreaded underwater level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES; this treacherous passage took more than one life of mine as I went back and forth through it.

There’s a lot of interesting things about Secrets of Raetikon. For instance, despite the menace of enemies, there’s no real combat – you’re able to dive-bomb creatures and damage them if you hit (which isn’t very easy, as most of them are moving); aside from that, the closest I came to combat with aerial foes was attempting to dodge their swift strikes, leading them to smash into rocks and eventually do themselves in.

The puzzle elements range from simply locating enough triangular pieces to activate a machine to locating and placing pieces of a statue opposite an already-constructed edifice that serves as your building guide. This can be tedious if you’re not grappling the right spot on any given piece, but the mechanics aren’t so problematic as to make it frustrating to do.

With the exception of those areas you can only reach after completing certain tasks, you’re pretty free to go where you wish in search of sigils for the cage-machine. I roamed relatively aimlessly about for quite some time, just feeling out what was there and looking for alternatives to particularly dangerous routes; there are not very many spots with only one entry, so it’s worth doing some exploring to look for these – I even found some puzzles that opened up ways to get back to old areas that became handy when taking sigils back to where they needed to go. Along the heights of the sky, gusts of wind impede or impel your movement, and gliding through these jetstreams provides another useful way to get around quickly and safely.

This fox bars the way towards one of the sigils you'll need to open up the cages until woken from its sleep; a nearby chamber contains a fox statue that must be rebuilt to progress further yet.

This fox bars the way towards one of the sigils you’ll need to open up the cages until woken from its sleep; a nearby chamber contains a fox statue that must be rebuilt to progress further yet.

Ultimately, for a game that’s in Alpha still, I was really impressed with the polish and shine already present in Secrets of Raetikon. There’s an underlying story that I didn’t really touch on, but that’s because I feel it’s best left to find for oneself; it’s told through runes inscribed on a series of stones present in each area, and the player is expected to locate the translations along their journey, filling in letter-by-letter to uncover the mystery of each; by the time I’d made significant progress into the game, I was able to read the runes pretty plainly without relying on the translation guide – which shows, I think, just how well it flows into the whole feel. This part might lose some of its charm on later playthroughs, but it gives an aura of wonder to the discovery and trying to piece together the history behind what you’re doing, and why.

Once this title is fully formed and released into the wild, I’ll definitely be giving it another whirl to go for the ‘grand reveal’ that’s not included in the alpha; I just hope that between now and then, Broken Rules finds a way to make it possible to recover sigils dropped into deep waters – my only real gripe at this time.

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